There are three Monarchs who lived and breathed the 2019 football season.
Jayce “Jboy” Jay-Pedro, Brayden Faurot and Kahiau Young are seniors now, key contributors to Damien’s defense. Jay-Pedro and Faurot are defensive ends; Young is a standout linebacker. With a resilient group of 30 players, many of the Monarchs are prepared to play nearly every down.
“Oh yeah, we love it. That’s Damien ever since I came here freshman year,” Jay-Pedro said. “Everybody plays both ways. Everybody plays special teams. You barely come off the field.”
Damien’s 8-3 season included a 6-2 run in Division I interleague play. It began with a non-league 38-31 overtime win at Lahainaluna. But two of those losses were to rival ‘Iolani, including a 21-14 loss in the ILH title game.
The postponement and eventual cancellation of the 2020 football season means Friday’s battle at ‘Iolani will be the first official game in nearly two years.
“I’m just grateful that we even get an opportunity to play this year. Even though it’s only four (other) teams, we’re blessed to be on the field and compete. The OIA won’t get a chance to play until September or October,” Jay-Pedro said. “We’ll be on the bus and leave our school at 12 o’clock.”
Much is the same, from the underdog status to a winning culture. But the seniors and their teammates are entering a new era of Damien football under first-year head coach Anthony “Bones” Tuitele.
“We just have to continue to work hard and listen to coach Bones. I know it’s going to be hard for everyone adjusting after Coach Eddie (Klaneski). Coach Bones knows a lot and he knows what’s best for us. Once we follow his move, we’ll be all right,” Jay-Pedro said. “When everyone gets in shape and knows their roles, we’ll be solid.”
Klaneski was 47-43 (.522) in nine seasons at the helm, the only football coach in school history with a winning record.
Coach Tuitele, a 2009 graduate of Damien, played safety at Culver-Stockton College (Missouri). Tuitele is a physical education teacher at Damien. He spent four seasons as an assistant coach under Klaneski, coaching different positions, handling practice and game plans. The first question he gets, though, is usually about the nickname.
“That was from my dad (Tony). Growing up, I was very, very skinny and to this day everybody calls me Bones,” said Tuitele, 30.
The mindset of Monarch football hasn’t changed since he was a player.
“We just need everyone to be healthy. It’s old school football. Iron man football. We have a lot of young freshmen on the intermediate, so hopefully after their season is done, they can come up. There were a lot of boys who were iffy about coming out and playing. I’m not a guy who will force guys to play. I’ll ask and ask and ask, but if you don’t have the passion, then you’ll lose interest,” Tuitele said.
Seniors like Jay-Pedro, Faurot and Young have always embraced their double duties.
“I told the seniors, ‘You have double film. It shows coaches you can play anywhere and all four special teams.’ I would love to have this opportunity,” Tuitele said.
Opportunities to play are great on Houghtailing Street. Sophomore Jensen Tanele is getting his shot at quarterback.
“He’s the best athlete that we have. He can throw the ball and run the ball,” Tuitele said. “He’s played quarterback before, but it’s his first time playing varsity there. The two scrimmages we’ve played, once he gets in a rhythm, he shows why we have him there at that position.”
The offensive line is led by senior guard Rustyn “Lawa” Ah Yat and junior center Christler Cristobal.
“It all feeds off our senior, Lawa. He’s a two-way guy, trying to lead us and give our line that confidence. Christler, for a young kid coming in, he wants to be the leader of the line, taking charge and making line calls. Them two being able to communicate is an A-plus.”
Damien’s ground attack will involve Peyton Dalmacio and Sylas Alaimalo.
“Peyton is more of a downhill guy, one cut and go. He’s somebody who can do the job. Sylas plays slot, too. Plays both ways,” Tuitele said.
Wide receiver Kamalii Labalan is a 6-foot-1 target with plenty of potential. He considered transferring to Utah, but opted to stay home.
“He comes to work every single day. He has a chip on his shoulder,” Tuitele said.
The front seven have a tradition to follow.
“Kahiau, J-boy and Brayden are the only three who really played in a varsity game,” Tuitele noted. “Kahiau can rally the boys around and keep their energy up. We’re looking at him as a leader.”
A young secondary is led by Kela Chinen-Zablan.
“We’re trying to keep it simple. Me and my coaching staff are trying to just let the kids play, and understand that the last time they played, most of them never played varsity football. It’s the same predicament for everybody else around the island,” Tuitele said. “Let them have fun, not put too much things on their plate.”
When Klaneski stepped down from his double duties of athletic director and football coach, Tuitele was surprised, but not shocked.
“It’s was funny because four years ago, he actually mentioned it. ‘Be ready.’ You never know when the opportunity would come for him and his family. I was like, ‘What about the other coaches, the O.G. coaches? You guys have been here a long time. You know how it is.’ It was my first year on the varsity staff,” Tuitele said.
“He pretty much told me to get my focus together and man up. Expectations will be high. Every year, Coach K always gave me a different role,” he said.
In year one, Tuitele was a wide receivers coach. Year two, he shared special teams coaching duties.
“The third year, they put me with coach Lefa (Lauti) and coach Brian (Ah Yat). They gave me special responsibilities with practice planning and game planning. Understanding how they’re thinking, the scenarios and what not,” Tuitele said.
Year four would have been his first as an offensive coordinator, but the pandemic wiped out the season.
“From OC to head coach, just like that. But the OGs and coach K always believed in me and prepared me every single year. It was my job to get better and they pushed me. They pushed me hard, so I wasn’t really shocked,” Tuitele said. “I just didn’t see this coming now. I thought coach K would be a longtime coach.”